Wellington County.


160 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-55046-502-0
DDC 971.3'42






Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



Don’t mistake this for a local history, although it has elements of that. Or for a Chamber of Commerce brochure, a driving-tour guide, or a geology lesson, although those, too, put in an appearance. The work is a survey of the past and present of that large chunk of land in south-central Ontario surrounding and spreading north from the city of Guelph. It is mainly farmland, punctuated by towns and villages and defined by limestone. The action of glaciers moving over the limestone base resulted in a wealth of spectacular natural attractions: gullies, cliffs gorges, waterfalls, ponds, rivers, caves, wetlands, kettle lakes, even giant circular potholes carved by the melting glaciers. Readily available limestone also put its signature on the appearance of the county’s architecture: limestone houses, churches, schools, municipal buildings, barns, mills, business blocks, and more, most built in the 1800s, define the look of the county today.


The text reviews the area’s geology, changing agricultural use, the city of Guelph, several of the smaller towns and villages, and the arts community. There’s homage paid to the area’s bragging rights: the county is home to North America’s largest kettle lake, the only working water-powered planning mill in Ontario, the largest independent clothier in Ontario, etc. New uses for historic buildings are identified with some frequency, so we’re told about uses such as the town hall that’s now a theatre, the railway station that has become a seniors’ centre, and the factories that have been transformed into apartments. The environmental impacts of change are noted with a nod to the value of attaining a sustainable future. The author’s expertise in geology and urban geography adds strength to these aspects of the work.


At least 150 colour photos add strong visual impact. There are some excellent landscape shots and enough views of limestone buildings to convey a strong impression of the area’s historic character.


The index is rather weak, yet overall the work is polished and professional. The writing style is bland, but the pace is good and the organization great.


Dahms, Fred., “Wellington County.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/26811.